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Study shows Alaska is third in the nation in battling the high cost of lung cancer

National Institute of Health

Alaska is the most expensive state to buy cigarettes-- but that means good things for the price in the fight against lung cancer.

  Alaska’s health care costs per capita is second only to Massachusetts. Despite this, Alaska’s also one of the top states in the nation at combating the high cost of lung cancer. KDLG’sThea Card has the details.

Ward Hurlburt is the chief medical officer with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. He studies the cost of health care in the state.

“Across the board the costs, the pricing in Alaska is notably much higher.”

There are several factors behind high medical care rates in Alaska; it’s expensive to get equipment to the state, not everyone lives in a community with easy access to a hospital and with fewer people in general, there are fewer trained professionals in the health care field.

However, WalletHub released a report stating Alaska as the third best state in terms of keeping the cost of treating lung cancer low. Spokesperson for the group Jill Gonzales says the study broke the data down into two categories;

“A favorable environment for lung cancer and then lung cancer prevalence and prevention.”

The study looked at where each state ranked in cigarette taxes, death rates from lung cancer, percent of smokers who attempted to quit, estimate of new lung cancer cases, air quality, top-rated hospitals for cancer and the price of a pack of smokes. Alaska is number one in the nation of most expensive cigarettes but 11th in cigarette taxes.

Gonzales says if Alaska raised its taxes on cigarettes it could very easily be ranked one in the nation on her report.

“Right now Alaska is at about $8 a pack and that’s the best. And then when you come to the difference between that and the number one and two states it comes down to taxes. The top two states are Hawaii and DC. And you’ll see their taxes up at $4.30 and right now Alaska’s at $2.”

Alaska also has intensive programs aimed to help people quit—even in rural communities.  Alaska Quit Line and the Text2Quit programs allow anyone with a phone or internet access to experience quit support.  Gonzales says programs like that make up for Alaska’s mid-range hospital score—Alaska is ranked 29th in the top-rated hospitals for cancer care.